Even though majorities of Americans say they are closely following news about bird flu and are concerned about the virus spreading in the United States, few say they have taken steps to prevent catching the virus or changed their eating habits out of concern.
According to the latest FOX News poll, six in 10 Americans (61 percent) say they are concerned about the spread of bird flu in the United States, including 23 percent that are very concerned and another 38 percent somewhat concerned.
All in all these results are roughly in line with previous surveys, though the number saying they are very concerned has dropped 7 percentage points since October, when a number of reports confirmed bird flu cases in China, Turkey and Romania. At that time 30 percent said they were very concerned.
There are some significant differences on this issue among groups. For instance, three in four Americans age 65 and over are concerned about bird flu, compared to just under half (47 percent) of those under 30. Nonwhites (74 percent) are much more likely than whites (58 percent) to say they are concerned, and women (64 percent) are somewhat more likely than men (58 percent) to say so.
"Concern over health-related issues is almost always correlated with age," notes Opinion Dynamics Vice President Lawrence Shiman. "Regardless of the issue, people over the age of 65 are usually the most concerned, while those under the age of 30 tend to think of themselves as invulnerable and therefore unconcerned with threats to their health."
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on February 28 - March 1.
Although most people have not taken steps to prevent contracting the virus, a small minority of Americans — 15 percent — say they have. Specifically, one in 10 report decreasing the amount of chicken or turkey they eat because of health concerns.
Here again there are age and racial differences. Nonwhites (20 percent) are more than twice as likely as whites (8 percent) to say they are eating less poultry because of bird flu concerns, and more than double the number of seniors (13 percent) compared to young people (5 percent) are cutting back.
"People prefer to take some action if they can; it gives them a sense of control over their health and their future," says Shiman. "In this case, however, most people perceive there is little they can do but wait and see."
Overall, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they are following news about the bird flu virus, with one in four (23 percent) following it very closely. For comparison, nearly half (46 percent) say they are following news about the situation in Iraq very closely, and 40 percent are very closely following the Dubai ports deal.